Skipping Breakfast—Is it Bad for Your Health?

If you take an unofficial poll of your family, friends, and coworkers about whether or not they eat breakfast in the morning, you may find that most of them don’t eat breakfast (and if they do eat breakfast, it’s hardly a healthy one).  What about you? Is eating breakfast a part of your morning routine? It’s not. Well, you’re not alone.  In fact, the 2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) shows 18% of adults skip breakfast while a whopping 86% of adults snack.1

As you know, nutrition plays an important role in your health. And some studies report that skipping breakfast is associated with poor cardiovascular factors (e.g., insulin sensitivity, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension).  Looking further at the effects of eating habits on heart health, a prospective cohort study evaluated the eating habits of men.2 The researchers found a 27% increase risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) among men who didn’t eat breakfast compared to those who ate breakfast; they also found that men who ate late-night meals had a 55% increased risk of CHD compared to men who did not eat late at night.  At first glance, your first reaction may be to start eating breakfast.  And while making time for a morning meal isn’t a bad thing, simply skipping breakfast won’t put you on the fast track toward heart disease.

This study concluded that eating breakfast is associated with lowering the risk of CHD in men, which shows a correlation between two factors, not causation.  Recognizing this distinction is key to understanding and interpreting a study’s conclusion.

To Eat or Not To Eat

A lot of emphasis has been placed on breakfast because, well, it is important. Eating a healthy meal in the morning helps to jump-start your day.  You’ll feel energized and focused.  Also, starting your day off with a good meal will reduce the likelihood that you’re eating sugary snacks and a heavy lunch to offset that low-energy feeling you’ve had throughout your morning.

  • Breakfast tip! Stay away from on-the-go cereal bars, sugary pastries. Opt for oatmeal because it’s packed with fiber; top the oatmeal with a healthy serving of proteins like walnuts and fruits. This will keep you sated and help to regulate your blood sugar levels, so you’re not feeling cranky, hungry, and tired.

Your health is a complex matter, which makes it difficult to attribute something like missing breakfast to developing heart disease.  Other factors such as a lack of physical activity, stress, and poor diet can contribute to heart disease too.  So focus on your dietary choices. Skipping breakfast isn’t going to put you on the path toward a heart attack. With that said, I suggest that you don’t skip breakfast because it helps to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs. Follow a routine that works for you and make sure it includes eating healthy fats, proteins, and carbs.

References

1.         Kant AK, Graubard BI. Secular trends in patterns of self-reported food consumption of adult Americans: NHANES 1971-1975 to NHANES 1999–2002. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2006;84(5):1215-1223.

2.         Cahill LE, Chiuve SE, Mekary RA, et al. Prospective Study of Breakfast Eating and Incident Coronary Heart Disease in a Cohort of Male US Health Professionals. Circulation. July 23, 2013 2013;128(4):337-343.

 

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